1. BBC News: “Scientists Clone from Frozen Mice”

Mice frozen for 16 years have been successfully cloned by Japanese scientists. Could mammoths be next?

A team at the Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, used brain cells from mice that had been stored at -20˚C (-4˚F) to create the clones. Depending on temperature and duration, cells that are frozen commonly experience damage to their DNA, which is one reason why the successful test is important.

Most successful cloning in the past has used live donor cells, although previously Australian scientists cloned a pig from cells that had been frozen for two years. The scientists from the Center for Development Biology suggest that perhaps mammoths could one day be cloned from their frozen remains, although DNA that has been taken from frozen mammoths has been found to be severely degraded.

“The key question is whether sufficiently intact nuclei could be extracted from mammoth cells, which will have been frozen for at least 10,000 years at relatively high sub-zero temperatures,” says John Armitage, director of tissue banking at the Bristol Eye Hospital. He also cautioned that even -20˚C would not stop genetic degradation for long, and that temperatures of “at least -140˚C” (-220˚F), along with cryoprotecting chemicals, is necessary for ideal preservation.

Disappointingly, not only might mammoths not return, but Armitage’s suggestion applies to the long-term storage of embryos used in stem-cell research.

For more information:

2. ScienceNOW: “Diesel Fuel From a Tree Fungus?”

Factors in petroleum production: high pressure and heat, millions of years, underground drilling, and . . . tree fungus?

Montana State University plant pathologist Gary Strobel has hit black gold—Texas tea, you might say—but not where you might expect. Strobel and colleagues discovered a tree in Patagonia whose stem contained a fungus, Gliocladium roseum, that produces hydrocarbons like those found in gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel.

Of course, in today’s quest for renewable energy sources, the discovery could prove monumental, as many companies are already seeking ways to convert plant material to usable energy sources. Specifically, synthetic biologist Stephen Del Cardayre, vice president for research and development at startup company LS9, suggests scientists might use the genes of G. roseum to engineer industrial microbes to do the same job, only better.

Specifically, G. roseum produces 55 different volatile hydrocarbons, including several that are common components of diesel fuels. Strobel believes the fungus produces the hydrocarbons to deter other organisms from crowding its niche.

This isn’t Strobel’s first fungal discovery. In the past, he has come upon other hydrocarbon-producing fungi, as well as finding a fungus in Honduras in 1997 that produces a natural antibiotic. Meanwhile, Strobel’s son Scott, a Yale University enzymologist, has found similar fungi in South America that also produce various hydrocarbons.

All this prompts ScienceNOW’s Robert Service to quip, “That may persuade the next generation of oil explorers to trade in their seismographs for pruning shears.”

This story is fascinating on two fronts. First, it’s incredible to read about these hydrocarbon-producing fungi, whose biochemistry must be quite unique and which no doubt is another design feature that will be chalked up to evolution. Second, any news of fossil fuel material being produced in front of our eyes is a reminder that such old-age conjecture (e.g., fossil fuels are proof of an old earth) is just that: conjecture based on presuppositions, and certainly not supported by actual scientific observation.

3. The Telegraph: “Crocodiles and Humans Live Side-by-Side in African Village”

It may not be dinosaurs living side-by-side with humans, but it’s close!

A series of photographs published by the Telegraph document African villagers who enjoy a “startlingly close relationship” with local crocodiles. The villagers believe the crocodiles are sacred and feed them chicken—no doubt a key to keeping them happy (or full) enough to allow the villagers to “play and do chores just yards from them.” (Follow the link above for photographs.)

Calling it a “magical place,” photographer Oliver Born said, “It shows that crocodiles are not just ferocious and dangerous animals and that they deserve to be protected. Crocodiles are today completely integrated in the life of the population.” The Telegraph also reports that more than 100 of the reptiles live near the village, growing up to 20 feet (6 m) long.

The news is also quite relevant to the creation/evolution debate, because of our often-mocked belief—which comes straight from Scripture—that dinosaurs and humans coexisted (at first peacefully) all the way back to the Garden of Eden. This is from a straightforward reading of Scripture that clearly teaches that humans and dinosaurs were both created on Day 6 of Creation Week.

Of course, while many dinosaurs were always plant-eating, the diets of other dinosaurs went from herbivorous to carnivorous after the Fall. This is the perhaps the most salient basis for evolutionists’ mockery of our human–dinosaur coexistence claim, even though humans inhabit the same world as many dangerous carnivores even today!

Crocodilians are one such dangerous carnivore, considered closely related to dinosaurs and believed even by evolutionists to have lived alongside them. We suspect that if crocodilians weren’t so widespread today, they might have been considered just another type of long-extinct dinosaur-era reptile—until they turned up living in the present! The same goes for Komodo dragons and other monitor lizards, along with tuatara.

Thus, the scenes of the African villagers mingling with the crocodiles corroborate that humans could have lived alongside (or nearby) even carnivorous dinosaurs. The original “magical place” where that happened was the Garden of Eden, before any animals had turned to carnivory.

4. ScienceDaily: “Could Life Have Started in Lump of Ice? Very Cold Ice Films in Laboratory Reveal Mysteries of Universe”

Maybe it was primordial soup. Maybe it was crystals. Maybe it was volcanic pools. Maybe it was lumps of ice. Maybe . . . .

The quest for the abiogenetic origin of life on earth goes on, as faithful evolutionists press forward with just-so stories to pacify what would otherwise be doubt. The latest yarn is that life may have developed in “ice film” that could perhaps have formed in outer space.

Scientists from the Andalusian Institute for Earth Sciences have studied the microscopic structure of ice films, presenting recent findings at a workshop organized by the European Science Foundation. The workshop focused on ice in space, which is usually found on dust grains but can also exist on “asteroids, comets, cold moons or planets, and occasionally planets capable of supporting life such as Earth.”

So what does this have to do with the origin of life? At very low temperatures as in space, ice can form “amorphous” structures unlike the ice crystals that usually form on earth. Thus, the ice from space can, the news release notes, “exist in a combination of crystalline and amorphous forms, in other words as a mixture of order and disorder,” depending on what temperature the freezing took place and the underlying substrate. The release notes that at extremely low temperatures, ice forming on titanium substrate results in “a characteristic cauliflower structure.” Under other conditions, the ice appears to form leaf- and worm-like shapes, even looking similar to bacteria on the microscopic scale. The release notes that “researchers should not assume that lifelike forms in objects obtained from space, like Mars rock, is evidence that life actually existed there.” Says researcher Julyan Cartwright, “If one goes to another planet and sees small wormlike or palm like structures, one should not immediately call a press conference announcing alien life has been found.”

But wait—this sounds like the research is a cautionary note warning scientists against hyping what they think could be extraterrestrial life. So why does the headline ask, “Could Life Have Started in Lump of Ice?” The tone of the news release shifts from caution to wild speculation, announcing without any sort of basis, “It is even possible that while ice is too cold to support most life as we know it, it may have provided a suitable internal environment for prebiotic life to have emerged.” Well, if we’re going to throw out known science in favor of completely unsupportable ideas, then maybe it was the vacuum of space, or the superheated surface of the sun that provided the ideal conditions for life to evolve!

“[W]hen life first emerged, it would have been using as a container something much simpler than today’s cell membrane, probably some sort of simple vesicle of the sort found in soap bubbles. This sort of vesicle can be found in abiotic systems today, both in hot conditions . . . [and] in the chemistry of sea ice.” That’s like saying car motors evolved, and support that “fact” because we can postulate a mechanism that hollow tree trunks could have housed motor parts before they evolved chassis and frames. Saying life evolved in ice, whether as a medium or a container, does nothing to answer the question of how such order and information could have randomly arranged itself!

We can’t help but conclude that the “scientific” speculation behind the godless version of the origin of life has sunk to yet another low. But don’t forget that any hint that there could have been an intelligent designer is “unscientific,” whereas this sort of scientific “research” passes for news these days with headlines like “Ice Films in Laboratory Reveal Mysteries of Universe.” And what’s ironic is that these scientists’ conclusion (perhaps life came from ice) is contradicted by the very same research, since its first, more logical (we’d say obvious) conclusion is that even if ice looks like life, that doesn’t mean it is!

If you know of anyone who is under the misapprehension that evolutionary scientists have any clue (as opposed to outlandish stories) how life originated, this is an ideal news release to disabuse them of that notion.

5. ScienceNOW: “Solar Storm! Shields Up!”

How could a page out of science fiction remind us of the uniqueness of earth?

British scientists working in the field of fusion reactions have developed a model that could help humans travel far beyond earth: the electromagnetic shield, popularized as part of the defense of any good starship in science fiction franchises.

But some readers might be wondering, there aren’t any Romulans or TIE Fighters out there, so why the need for a defensive shield? The problem is pervasive radiation in outer space, which would rapidly prove lethal to astronauts traveling beyond earth’s magnetic field (in essence, a giant defensive shield).

Because fusion reactors must create powerful magnetic fields to contain the dangerous thermonuclear reactions inside, fusion scientists from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory decided to apply those magnetic fields to protecting astronauts from lethal space radiation.

Computer simulations confirmed that such defensive shields would only need to be a few hundred meters wide and would require less power than shields used to do the reverse (repelling rather than containing harmful radiation).

Ruth Bamford of the laboratory explained that while the team’s initial model probably wouldn’t provide complete protection, “Our aim isn’t perfect protection but to bring down the radiation to acceptable levels.”

We can thank God that earth has a giant magnetic field that deflects most harmful radiation away from us—just another factor in earth’s incredible uniqueness and habitability.

6. LiveScience: “Black As Barack? Why Race is Wrong” [Part 1 | Part 2]

Barack Obama’s campaign and election as the first “black” president of the United States has sparked much discussion about “race.” But what is race, really?

Of course, probably all readers are already aware of the news, and in fact we’re reporting on a particular topic tangential to the election covered by LiveScience:

The construct of race was never more than a poor model. Now it’s become worse than useless. It’s divisive and destructive.

Dave Brody, listed as executive producer for LiveScience, writes on his use of software to run permutations of Barack Obama’s face—itself a representation of the spectrum of human “traits” and the essential meaninglessness of the concept of race:

What prevents, say, an Ethiopian Muslim from having a child with a Japanese Jew? Tradition? Belief? Geography? Yep, all that and more. But not biology. In our genes, modern humans are all of one type. The notion that there’s a “race gene,” or even a definitive cluster of racially genetic material that might predispose a baby to any trait other than fuzzy placement in a wide range of two types of melanin (red and brown skin pigment), is not now scientifically supportable.

In part 2 of the story, Brody continues breaking down the concept of “race” with such punning insights as “Down at the cellular level, every one of us is a person of color: a “hue-man.’” He points out that “[r]ace . . . exists only in the heart of the racist.”

Brody’s points about the superficiality (literally) of race are quite accurate, and they match up with what Answers in Genesis has been teaching for years. Science offers direct evidence of what we already know based on the Bible: we are all of one race, and the genetic factors that create different skin/hair/eye color are account for very few of the differences in genetic makeup from individual to individual.

Let’s not forget, however, that it is the Bible that has always taught that we are one race (Acts 17:26), all descendants of Adam through Noah—whereas Darwinism was substantially racist in its first century, with many evolutionists even attempting to “scientifically” show that some races were closer to humanity’s supposed apeman ancestors.

Meanwhile, in a related touching-on-politics entry from LiveScience, columnist Christopher Wanjek weighs in on former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s attack on (allegedly wasteful) U.S.-funded fruit fly research conducted in southern France. What really stood out to us, though, was this aside at the beginning of Wanjek’s column:

Of course, Palin is an easy target when the topic turns to science. Reportedly a believer in biblical creationism, Palin is fine with the notion that Noah still had sharp enough eyesight at age 600 to identify male and female fruit flies and bring them onto the ark.

We hope readers have no trouble spotting Wanjek’s inaccuracy, but for those who can’t: Noah didn’t take fruit flies—or any other insects—on the Ark (at least probably not intentionally, since insects do not fit the “breathing” criterion [revealed by the Hebrew text] of animals God had Noah bring on the Ark; some insects no doubt stowed away on the Ark and others likely survived the Flood on floating vegetation mats).

Time after time, people poke fun at the historicity of the Ark by referencing how many millions of insect species Noah had to take on board. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the headline of Wanjek’s column refers to “misdirected criticism,” since so many of those who attack the Ark account apparently haven’t conducted even basic research into what the Bible teaches!

7. BBC News: “Author Michael Crichton Dies, 66”

Best-selling novelist Michael Crichton—creator of Jurassic Park and the television series ER—has died. He was 66.

Crichton, a Harvard-educated medical doctor, passed away in Los Angeles after battling cancer. Born in Chicago during World War 2, Crichton’s first best seller, The Andromeda Strain, was written while he was still in medical school.

Considered wildly successful, Crichton at one point in the 1990s had the United States’ number one film (Jurassic Park), number one television show (ER), and number one book (Disclosure) concurrently. More than a dozen of his novels (in addition to several screenplays) were adapted for the big screen, including The Lost world (sequel to Jurassic Park).

In a way, Crichton had a small hand in inspiring even our own Creation Museum, as Ken Ham explained in his blog Thursday morning:

There is no doubt that Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, and the movie of the same name, catapulted “dinosaur fever” among kids of all ages to a whole new level. When I was interviewed by the secular media at the opening of the Creation Museum, I was often asked why we had such an emphasis on dinosaurs in various parts of the museum. I often responded saying that kids were fascinated by dinosaurs and usually referred to the Jurassic Park movie as having greatly contributed to dinosaur popularity in our modern world. Of course the big difference with what AiG says about dinosaurs and what Michael Crichton portrayed is that we believe they were created on Day Six of the creation week just a few thousand years ago—that they didn’t evolve into birds over millions of years.

Interestingly, we may have been closer to agreement with Crichton in his views on global warming. His 2004 novel State of Fear “caused controversy when it cast doubt on the dangers of global warming,” reports the BBC. They also report that the book “suggested that global warming was a fallacy dreamt up by environmental activists” and that Crichton’s “reputation suffered in 2005 when he was chided by members of the US Congress for his scepticism over climate change.”

Crichton also criticized rampant speculation in untestable scientific hypotheses. In fact, he sounded at times quite similar to us. For instance, in a 2005 speech, he said:

A wonderful area for speculative academic work is the unknowable. . . . The nature of consciousness, the workings of the brain, the origin of aggression, the origin of language, the origin of life on earth, SETI and life on other worlds . . . . You can argue it interminably. And it can’t be contradicted, because nobody knows the answer to any of these topics-and probably, nobody ever will.
Then there is the speculative work of anthropologists like Helen Fisher, who claim to tell us about the origins of love or of infidelity or cooperation by reference to other societies, animal behavior, and the fossil record. How can she be wrong? These are untestable, unprovable, just so stories.

Sadly, while Crichton apparently realized the unscientific nature of, e.g., some evolutionary explanations of the origin of life and culture, his comments also seem to indicate he was skeptical of the Bible’s answers for where life came from.

We certainly extend our prayerful condolences to Crichton’s family during this difficult time.

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